The Abia State government has responded to the allegation by former bank CEO, Dr. Alex Otti that it mismanaged N22bn given to it by the federal government as Paris Club Refund, accusing him of displaying ignorance.
Otti, a former governorship candidate in the state, had in a statement earlier on Tuesday, among other things, said that, “in the last few weeks, Abia state has been in the news for the wrong reasons following an invitation said to have been extended to some present and past officials of the State Government over the management of the N22 billion Paris Club Refund to Abia state by the Federal Government a few years ago.”
However, in a statement on Tuesday by Chief John Okiyi Kalu, the state commissioner for information, the Abia government said contrary to Otti’s claim, the refund was judiciously utilized.
“Our attention has been drawn to a press release by the two time defeated APGA governorship candidate in Abia State, Mr Alex Otti, who has since abandoned the party that made him to join APC, on the management of Paris Club Refund to the state wherein he tried very hard but vainly to drag the Governor Okezie Ikpeazu-led administration into what he clearly knows nothing about,” Kalu’s statement read.
“For the sake of public information, we wish to state as follows:
“1. In the first instance, Mr Otti who copiously cited the yet to be verified allegations of his former colleague at First Bank and fellow APC Chieftain, Mr Obinna Oriaku, who served as commissioner for finance in the state, against a previous administration in the state failed the test of altruism by deliberately refusing to mention throughout his long and rancorous epistle that same individual exonerated Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and his administration from any wrongdoing in the management of the Refunds.
“2. For the avoidance of doubt, it is important to note that in both the written and broadcast interviews of Mr Oriaku, he clearly affirmed that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu managed the N22bn Paris Club Refund judiciously and received well deserved accolades from the Nigerian Governors Forum and the ICPC which reviewed the application of the funds.
“3. Oriaku also stated that while the greater chunk of the funds were applied to settlement of some arrears of pensions and salaries, it was still not enough to settle all the arrears, some of which date back to the military era and other administrations before the emergence of Governor Ikpeazu.
“4. Responding to a journalist in Umuahia, APC Chieftain, Obinna Oriaku, who supervised the disbursement of the Paris Club Refund said: “those funds were judiciously used. Remember when these funds came, we (Abia) were about the only state that decided to use huge sum of that money for salaries. Most other states were using them for other things: contractor payment, overhead payments etc. The second tranche of N5.7 billion that came, even one naira was not taken out, and I remember the Governor using it to talk to the NUT people, he said how else do we demonstrate our commitment towards your welfare if we can commit an entire N5.7 billion for your welfare, and really which was true. No other state did that”.
“5. The not so subtle attempt by Otti to present his intervention in a manner that misleads the reading public into believing that the Ikpeazu administration was involved in mismanagement of the refunds is typical of him as once acknowledged even by the Presidency that was at a time also forced to respond to him on his misrepresentation of facts involving the Debt Management Office.
“6. Obviously, the statement credited to Oriaku to the effect that Governor Ikpeazu warned him and other government officials when the funds were received to ensure that nobody stole any part of it, describing the money as rat poison (indocid) that whoever touched would go in for it, couldn’t make the propaganda cut for Mr Otti, hence, his preference for indecorous manipulation of words to cast aspersions on his serial political vanquisher, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, who has confined him to the boys quarters of Abia politics for good.
“7. In case anyone is still in doubt as regards facts of the matter, we wish to restate that upon receipt of the refunds, Governor Ikpeazu inaugurated a committee made up of leaders of organized Labour: NLC, TUC, NULGE, NUP, NUT and Joint Negotiating Council, in the state to determine how to appropriately apply the Fund to settle arrears of salaries and pension as well as fund key infrastructure projects.
“8. The state House of Assembly duly appropriated the funds in line with the recommendations of the committee and disbursements were done under the watch of Otti’s former colleague in first bank and now APC Chieftain, Obinna Oriaku.
“9. As already available in the public domain, we received three tranches of Paris Club Refund of N10.6bn N5.7bn and N5.7bn. According to Mr Oriaku, “the Paris Refund came in three trenches of N10.6bn, N5.7bn and N5.7bn. All these funds except N1.7bn were used exclusively for payments of arrears owed Abia State workers partly before the Okezie administration.”
“10. It is laughable that Mr Otti believes the state government should now re-investigate matters before the EFCC or courts even after his primary source, Oriaku, stated publicly that our administration did not endorse any contract with the named aggrieved consultant and that, indeed, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu refused to pay any 30% or 20% of it to anyone.
“11. If anything, the government has showed confidence in anti-corruption agencies of the federal government and maintained transparency in management of public resources.
“12. The administration of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has maintained its policy of insisting that every government official in Abia State invited by EFCC and any other anti-graft agencies must go and defend their record of service as we have zero tolerance for corruption.
“13. We believe that those agencies have the requisite resources to investigate graft while we focus on substantive governance that has been delivering dividends of democracy to our people.
“14. We will not allow politicians with the unenviable record of perennial failure and destruction of every institution they have headed and or managed to distract us with their Ill advised political voyages.
“15. If as stated by Oriaku and acknowledged by Otti, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu refused to pay the consultants in question as demanded by them leading to the civil suit in an Abuja High Court and the report to EFCC, what exactly does Otti understand by the process of termination of contracts?
“16. Furthermore, if according to Otti Abia Governement officials are appearing in Abuja High Court and the EFCC to defend the position of the government and provide relevant documents, what exactly does he mean by “state government should take interest in the matter?”
“17. How else should a Governor demonstrate his position on a matter of this nature highlighted by Otti and Oriaku than clearly and unambiguously refusing to pay what he believes is not right?
“18. Whatever role played by anybody in the recovery of Paris Club Refunds to the state must have been stated in whatever contract document Otti and Oriaku made reference to, which the current administration refused to pay. It is therefore not our duty to re-litigate a matter that is before the courts and the EFCC.
“19. As can be expected from any responsible Government, we are awaiting the outcome of EFCC investigation and the civil suit in Abuja to determine our next course of action.
“20.There is no gainsaying the fact that we will always act in the best interest of Abia people as the instant case has further demonstrated so far.
“21. Finally, we wish to State our understanding of the symptoms of ignorance in industrial scale in an individual which can lead them into political voyages of perdition as is the case with Mr Alex Otti.”